Mary Teruel is a senior author and professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford University, conducted a study published last April in CELL METABOLISM.
“When glucocorticoids are constantly high, as is the case when we’re chronically stressed out, it can boost the chances for a certain type of cell to morph into fat cells, the study found. And that could bump up our weight. So basically it’s not about food intake. It’s about timing.”
Tercel says, “While mice and people are certainly different, both are greatly influenced by circadian rhythms and both produce glucocorticoids in response to stress. Although the research was done in the lab, it’s likely human body would react in a similar fashion to the mice to continuous high levels of glucocorticoids.”
Tercel says the increase in fat is likely related to the fact under normal circumstances glucocorticoids wax and wane with our circadian clocks. So our bodies are designed to ignore short-term fluctuations of these hormones.
But everything is thrown out of whack when levels stay high — as they will if a person’s stress doesn’t diminish, even after the day’s work is done.
“So maybe it’s OK to get stressed during the day, but not at night,” Teruel said.
That makes sense to Dr. Anthony Heaney, an endocrinologist and an associate professor of medicine and neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.
“It would suggest that any method people can use to beat stress could be of benefit,” Heaney said. “I think the challenge is for people who are stressed often. I don’t think jumping into a 30-minute yoga or Pilates class will be enough to address that.”
We recommend MINDFULNESS before jumping into any class, running out to the gym or any exercise after work. That’s actually keeping your stress level high.
What you need to do is de-compress first.
If you’ve had a stressful day, sat all day at the office or had an awful commute –close your eyes for 20 minutes when you get home and focus on your breathing.
RELAX. BREATHE. This study reinforces why SLEEP is so important to maintaining a healthy weight. If you only sleep 4, 5 or 6 hours a night, you are sending a message to your fat cells to stay ON.
Every cell in your body and brain needs to rest and replenish itself. You throw yourself out of wack when you deprive your body of this. The damage may not show up immediately, but it will in the long-run.
CHRONIC STRESS can be alleviated by consistent sleep. If you have to chose between exercise or sleep when you’re going through a stressful time, pick consistent sleep and you will get through it. You can get your daily exercise through walking after you’ve allowed your mind to calm down.
Burning the candle at both ends will do just that –leave you burned out. Allow yourself a REST and RESET, so your fat cells stay turned off.
You may not be able to control the amount of stress in. your life, but you can make a note to turn everything OFF at a certain time at night so you deactivate your glucocorticoids.
HOW TO COPE WITH DAILY STRESS
1. Find the optimistic viewpoint in a negative situation.
One of the simplest but most effective ways to build a more positive outlook has in my experience been to ask more helpful questions as often as possible.
When I am in what seems like a negative situation – maybe I have been lazy, made a mistake, failed or stumbled in some kind of way – then I like to ask myself questions like:
What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
What is one opportunity within this situation?
Doing so is a whole lot better than what I used to do in such situations. Because back then I usually asked myself how much I sucked and how things could get even worse now.
I do however not always use these questions right away.
Oftentimes I need a bit of time to process the thoughts and feelings that arise in situation before I can do that.
Trying to force optimistic thinking when you are still in an emotional turmoil or a bit shocked usually don’t work that well.
2. Cultivate and live in a positive environment.
Who you choose to spend your time with and the input you get from further away like the TV, the internet and magazines will have a huge effect on your outlook.
To be able to stay positive it is essential to have influences in your life that support you and lift you up instead of dragging you down.
So carefully consider what you let into your mind.
You can for example ask yourself:
Who are the 3 most negative people I spend time with?
What are the 3 of most negative sources of information I spend time on?
Consider the answers. Then think about how you can start spending less time with one of those people or information sources this week.
And how you can spend more of the time you have now freed up with one of the most positive sources or people in your life.
3. Go slowly.
I have found that when I go too fast, when I try to think, talk, eat and move around in my world really quickly then things don’t go too well.
Stress builds up. Negative thoughts about just about anything start to well up and I feel like my own personal power decreases.
But if I slow down just for a few minutes – even if I have to force it by walking, talking and eating slower – then my mind and body calms down too. It becomes easier to think things through clearly again and easier to find the optimistic and constructive perspective.
4. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
It’s very easy to lose perspective, especially if you are stressed and you are going too fast.
A simple three step way to handle these situations so they don’t get out of hand is to:
Say stop. In your mind, shout “STOP!” or “NOPE, we are not going down that path again!” as soon as thoughts of this kind starts to spin in your head.
Breathe. After you have disrupted the thoughts by shouting stop sit down and just be still. Breathe with your belly and focus on just your in-breaths and out-breaths for a minute or two to calm your mind and body down.
Refocus. Question your mountain building thoughts by talking to someone close to you and getting a more grounded perspective on the situation by just venting or by getting his or her input.
Or simply ask yourself this to widen your perspective and to chill out: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks?
5. Don’t let vague fears hold you back from doing what you want.
Sometimes you may want to take a chance in life. Start a new habit that feels unfamiliar, your own business on the side or ask someone out for a date.
A common trap when you want to do one of those things is to get lost in vague fears and about what could happen if you actually took action.
And so the mind runs wild fueled by fear and it creates nightmare scenarios and plenty of self-doubt.
I know. I have been there many times.
So I have learned to ask myself this: honestly, what is the worst that could happen?
When I have figured that out I also spend a bit of time on trying to figure out what I could do if that that often pretty unlikely thing happens.
I have over the years discovered that the worst thing that could realistically happen is usually not as scary as the nightmare my fear-fueled mind could produce.
Finding clarity in this way doesn’t take much time or effort and it can help you to avoid much mind made suffering. And help you to get going, step outside of your comfort zone and take that chance.
6. Add value and positivity to someone else’s life.
What you send out you tend to get back from the world and the people in it.
Not from everyone. And not every time.
But what you send out there matters a whole lot.
What you give them and how you treat them is what you’ll get back. And they way you treat others and how you think of them also tend to have a big effect on how you treat and think about yourself.
So give value and spread the positivity by for example:
Helping out. Lend a hand when moving. Give a friend a ride in your car. If he or she needs information then help out by checking it up on Google or asking a friend of yours.
Just listening. Sometimes people don’t want any direct help. They just want someone to be there fully and listening as they vent for a little while.
Boosting the mood. Smile. Give hugs when appropriate. Play uplifting music when hanging out with a friend or suggest an inspiring movie for your movie night. Or encourage when someone has had a bad day or are going through a tough time.
7. Exercise regularly and eat and sleep well.
This is very obvious of course.
But I know the big, big impact a good night’s sleep or good workout can have when my thoughts are pessimistic and I have a lot of tensions on the inside.
And I know how much simpler it is to think clearly and optimistically when my belly is not empty.
So I highly recommend being careful about these basic habits that may sound boring. Because they do have a huge effect either way depending on how you manage them.
8. Learn to take criticism in a healthy way.
One of the most common fears is the fear of criticism. It can hold people back from doing what they want in life.
Because having negativity flowing out of someone’s mouth or email and it being about you can hurt. And being rejected can sting quite a bit.
But if you want to take action on what you deep down want then criticism is pretty much unavoidable. So the key is learning to handle it in a healthier way.
By doing so your fear of it will lessen and it will hurt less if you do get criticized.
I usually use four steps when I get some criticism. Maybe they can help you out too:
Step 1: Don’t reply right away.
When you are angry, upset or riled up then is time to calm down a bit before you reply. Take at least a couple of deep breaths or a little time to process the message before you respond.
Step 2: Really listen to the criticism.
Try to remain open and level-headed and figure out how this message can help you.
Ask yourself: Is there one thing I can learn from this criticism? Is there something here that I may not want to hear but could help me?
Step 3: Remember the criticism isn’t always about you.
Some criticism is helpful. Some is simply attacks or someone lashing out because they are having bad day, year or job.
To lessen the sting of such criticism – often really angry or overly critical in an unconstructive way – I try to be understanding. I think to myself that this person might not be feeling so good at the moment.
Step 4: Reply or let go.
No matter the content of for example an email I try to keep my reply level-headed and kind. I may add a question or two to get more specific feedback that is helpful.
And if they don’t reply or I have simply gotten a nasty attack then it is time to delete it and to let that situation go.
9. If something still gets under your skin then know what to do.
Sometimes something can still get under your skin and hurt you. Even if you use the steps above.
Two things that have helped me with that challenge are:
Let it out. Just letting that issue out into the light talking it over with someone close can be very helpful to see it for what it actually is. And to find a healthier perspective on the situation.
Improve your self-esteem. I have found over the years that with a stronger self-esteem things drag me down less and they don’t ruin my day as much anymore. Negativity from others bounces off me much more often instead. If you want to practical help with this then have a look at my 12-week, step-by-step Self-Esteem Course.
10. Start your day in a positive way.
How you start your day usually sets the tone for the rest of your day.
So be careful about how you spend your mornings.
If you get going at full speed, lost in future troubles in your mind then the stress, perceived loss of power of over your life and negative thoughts will ramp up quickly.
If you on the other hand start your day by moving slowly, by having an uplifting conversation with your family or friend or you spend some time with reading or listening to inspiring and helpful articles or podcasts over breakfast or during your bus ride to work then that can make a big difference for how your whole day will go.
11. Mindfully move through your day.
When you spend your time in the present moment then it becomes so much easier to access positive emotions and to stay practical about what you can actually do about something in your life.
When you get lost in the past or future like so many of us have spent a lot of time on doing then worries very easily become bigger. And failures and mistakes from the past being replayed over and over in your mind drag you down into pessimism.
By moving slowly through your morning and hopefully through much of the rest of your day it becomes easier to mindfully stay in the moment you are in.
Another simple way to reconnect with the moment you are in and to put your full attention there again is to focus just on what is going on around you right now for a minute or two with all your senses. See it. Hear it. Smell it. Feel the sun, rain or cold wind on your skin.
It might sound like a small and insignificant thing to do. But this simplifying reconnection with the moment can have a very positive effect on the rest of your day.
Neurogenesis or growing new brain cells while exercising makes sense because your brain is receiving more oxygen and blood. At 45-minutes your mind is at its sharpest.
Society is obsessed with working out for their body, but it’s the brain that will lead you to take the right actions, make good decisions and naturally secrete endorphins and naturally alleviate anxiety, depression and inflammation.
Here are 10 ways you can keep your brain vibrant, sharp and constantly improving.
1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses.
2. Take care of your nutrition. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients we intake? As a general rule, you don’t need expensive ultra-sophisticated nutritional supplements, just make sure you don’t stuff yourself with the “bad stuff”.
3. Remember that the brain is part of the body. Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain: physical exercise enhances neurogenesis.
4. Practice positive, future-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to every new day in a constructive way. Stress and anxiety, no matter whether induced by external events or by your own thoughts, actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones. You can think of chronic stress as the opposite of exercise: it prevents the creation of new neurons.
5. Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges. The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Once new neurons appear in your brain, where they stay in your brain and how long they survive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567″. It means, “challenge your brain often with fundamentally new activities”.
6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-directed organisms in this planet. Aim high. Once you graduate from college, keep learning. The brain keeps developing, no matter your age, and it reflects what you do with it.
7. Explore, travel. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.
8. Don’t Outsource Your Brain. Not to media personalities, not to politicians, not to your smart neighbor. Make your own decisions, and mistakes. And learn from them. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbor’s.
9. Develop and maintainstimulating friendships. We are “social animals”, and need social interaction. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Einstein’ has been shown not to be the panacea for children development.
10. Laugh. Often. Especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises.
DRUMROLL PLEASE…# 11 COMES TO US FROM A READER NAMED, JOHN. I love the hobbies he mentions as they’re my own and they do serve to keep the mind sharp. John has a beautiful blog. I encourage you to take a look at it. The link for it is: http://realtruelove.wordpress.com/
11. Write, journal, blog (as well as draw, paint, play an instrument, learn photography). And read decent books (and poetry); give yourself some real food for thought. And when you read decent books, read slowly enough to explore–and even better, to journal–your own thoughts in relation to what you are reading. Developing and refining our own personal philosophy or “life map” is a huge part of using it and not losing it.
Now, remember that what counts is not reading this article-or any other-, but practicing a bit every day until small steps snowball into unstoppable, internalized habits…so, pick your next battle and try to start improving at least one of these 10 habits today. Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your attention, click on a link below to learn more, and make a decision to try something different today!
Super Body, Super Brain by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace
My Review of Super Body, Super Brain. I serve on the board.
SUPER BODY, SUPER BRAIN by Michael Gonzalez Wallace is my #1 pick for a fitness book. It’s based on the very latest, cutting-edge brain research. Michael’s program is unique in that it provides a whole brain workout that requires thinking and precision through specific left to right, and front to back movements.
This is the first time someone has created a program, which taps into how complex circuits in our brains connect to our muscles through voluntary and intentional movement. Huge implication for aging. For more than a century, medical science firmly believed that our brain could not repair itself and that we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have.
Over the last 20 years, research has shown neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, actually does occur in the brain with the right training. Michael brilliantly harnesses this knowledge to provide expert training on how your brain connects to your body through motor and sensory pathways.
In SUPER BODY, SUPER BRAIN he provides compelling evidence that exercise is not only good for your heart, but also good for your brain. He aptly demonstrates an exciting daily fitness program that stimulates your brain cells during your workout. He shows you how to work out smarter, instead of longer.
As someone who has specialized in medical/health for over two decades, I strongly endorse Michael’s program. When you first learn of it, you’ll think it must be a gimmick. It’s not. As mentioned, it’s based on decades of scientific research. I use the program myself and have known Michael for years.
He’s the real deal; extremely passionate about the program because he knows it works and can help others improve their energy level and entire well being from the inside out. In today’s ever-competitive world, it’s not enough to have a Super Body. You absolutely need a Super Brain. Michael shows you how to build both at the same time.
The benefits of his unique program are long overdue within the entire health community. Super Body Super Brain by Michael Gonzalez Wallace is definitely the future of fitness. Everyone at any fitness level from beginner to pro will take something away from this book that improves his or her health.